Found a new favorite seafood place

My girlfriend and I were looking for a good non-chain seafood restaurant in the Capital Region.  They can be a little hard to find.  Reel Seafood is good, but they are kind of expensive.  We decided to check out Salty's Pub and Bistro in Clifton Park.  A friend was having a meetup there, and she knows her food, so we figured we would take a chance.

Salty's is located off of Exit 8A on 215 Guideboard Road in Clifton Park.  It is a nondescript shop in a nondescript strip mall.  Inside, Salty's has a very friendly atmosphere.  About half the space is allocated to the bar, and half is allocated to the bistro.  Even on a Monday night, it was a little noisy, which we did not mind too much.  However, those who enjoy a quiet dining experience, beware!  Wood trim abounds in the interior, giving the restaurant a warm, cozy feel.  Pop music plays in the background.

Because Salty's looks kind of plain from the outside, I assumed the menu would be quite limited.  On the contrary!  Salty's has a variety of dishes, and an extensive seafood menu.  My girlfriend and I were very excited.  I decided to order Salty's Famous Fisherman's Platter.  I had high hopes, and Salty's exceeded my expectations! Out came a generous portion of fried seafood wrapped in a bread shell of some kind, with coleslaw and a baked potato.  I tossed aside the shell (too many calories), and headed straight for the fish. First, I bit into the scallops.  My taste buds were so happy when I bit into the juicy, fresh seafood.  I instantly said to my girlfriend, "We have to go back to this place!"

For a nondescript place, Salty's sure took me by surprise.  This just confirms in my mind that it is not always the fancy places that have the best food.  I would go to Salty's over Reel Seafood or Red Lobster any day.

Jewish soul food at Ben and Bill's

There are very few places in the Capital Region where one can go for a good pastrami sandwich.  One of those places is Ben and Bill's Deli in Price Chopper.  I had never been to Ben and Bill's before.  Having spent the day in Saratoga Springs, I figured I would stop over in the Saratoga Springs Price Chopper on Route 50, which is one of only two Price Chopper's which has the Ben and Bill's Deli.  It was well worth the trip.

Ben and Bill's makes authentic New York style deli sandwiches.  I cannot think of too many places in the area that makes Jewish deli sandwiches.  Gershon's is one, and they are wonderful.  However, I was in Saratoga Springs today, so I figured I would soothe my longing for Jewish deli at Ben and Bill's. 

I stepped up to the counter, and ordered a half pastrami, half corned beef sandwich.  In my earlier years, I would order a whole pastrami sandwich, but now that I am older, I wanted to eat a little healthier.  I do not know how much healthier corned beef is than pastrami, but at least I was making an effort.  To my delight, the employee pulled one brand new fresh pastrami and one corned beef out of the oven, and put both meats in the deli slicer.  I drooled as I saw the greasy meats being placed onto my sandwich.  I was excited to eat this tasty meal.  It came in a little box with a pickle on the side and a bag of fresh cooked potato chips. 

I was not disappointed.  The meats were moist and delicious, but perhaps a bit too fatty.  The grease from the meats blended in with the rye bread and mustard to make a delicious concoction.  The sandwich was much more than I should have eaten;  however, I ended up finishing it.  I wanted to 'try' the potato chips, so I opened them up and they were so delicious, I ended up finishing the bag. 

The one thing that Ben and Bill's does not have going for it is its ambiance, or lack thereof.  Ben and Bill's is smack dab in the middle of Price Chopper, albeit a very nice Price Chopper.  There are pictures of Jewish celebrities and pictures of NYC in the dining area which create the impression that you are in a Jewish deli, but really it still feels like you are in a Price Chopper rather than an authentic Jewish deli.

The sandwich, pickle, potato chips and a seltzer cost about $10, which is not bad.  I forgot to show the cashier my Price Chopper card, otherwise, I would have gotten a little bit closer to that precious $.10 off on gas.  I truly enjoyed my meal at Price Chopper.  I would definitely go back in a couple of months (or weeks) and get another pastrami or corned beef sandwich.  Next time, if I indulge and eat the whole sandwich, I will not eat the chips. 

Caffe Vero is a quintessential coffee shop

Today, I went to Caffe Vero on 260 Lark Street in Albany with some friends.  It is located in between the flower shop and Bombers Burrito Bar.  I am very impressed by this coffee shop.  The only drawback is that there is not more room inside for people to sit down. 

My girlfriend and I got to Caffe Vero on Sunday at 10:30AM.  Caffe Vero has a tiny storefront, so we almost passed by it.  Inside, the atmosphere of Caffe Vero is very inviting.  Obviously, a lot of work has been put into the interior of the store.  The store boasts all-wood floors.  On the left-hand wall is pictures of coffee, and on the right hand wall is art work for sale.  There is a series of smalll round tables spread around the restaurant. 

As you enter the restaurant, the counter lies in front of you.  The menu at Caffe Vero is very simple.  Caffe Vero is not like Starbucks, where you can choose from maybe 40 different coffees and teas.  There are less than 20 drinks on the menu at Caffe Vero, and perhaps 10 choices of pastry.  There are no breakfast sandwiches, or deli sandwiches. 

Though Caffe Vero does not have a large menu, everything that they do have appears to be very good.  I had the apple struessel muffin and a iced Jasmine tea.  The apple streussel muffin was home made and contains many chunks of apple.  It was moist and delicious.  My only regret was the fact that it was not a little bit bigger.  The iced jasmine tea was also excellent.  It tasted sweet and crisp.  It was not overloaded with ice like the Dunkin Donuts iced drinks.  A 16 ounce cup of iced tea is $2.00, which makes it a little cheaper than Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts.

Unfortunately, I did not have the coffee because coffee is too strong for my stomach.  However, the coffee did look delicious.  Caffe Vero does coffee the way I would imagine Starbucks did coffee in the early days.  The baristas are in control of the french press, so they brew the coffee according to their expertise. 

Caffe Vero is a wonderful coffee establishment with a warm atmosphere and great drinks and pastries.  My only wish is that the restaurant be a little larger and have larger tables so that larger parties of people could get together.  I imagine Caffe Vero will have a very large fan base in Albany. 

The Side Door Cafe is not just a bar...

My girlfriend and I both live in Guilderland, so we both spend a lot of time on Western Avenue.  That being said, I pass by the Side Door Cafe on 1656 Western Avenue at least twice every day.  I had often gone in for drinks on the weekend to listen to Mark the Shark host karaoke. 

The Side Door Cafe is a bar first and a cafe second.  The bar can seat around twenty people and on the wall there are at least five big screen tv's.  It has a very comfortable atmosphere.  A nice mix of middle-class people of all ages sit at the bar.  Past the bar, there is a separate dining area with about ten tables.  The dining area does not have a dedicated waitress -- one of the bartenders doubles as the waitress in the dining area. 

My girlfriend and I decided to head over to the Side Door Cafe to try the food.  The food is definitely above average, though not spectacular. 

The first time we went, I wanted to eat something relatively healthy, so I had the buffalo chicken salad.  I got a fairly large portion consisting of two large handfuls of romaine lettuce and a sliced fried chicken cutlet dipped in buffalo sauce.  It was quite tasty.  My girlfriend had the grilled chicken sandwich with pasta salad and she also enjoyed her dish. 

The second time we went to the Side Door, my girlfriend had a rough day, so she wanted to get a beer and something to eat.  We ended up sharing the chicken quesadilla.  The chicken quesadilla was wonderful!  First of all, it was huge, probably ten inches in diameter.  It was wonderful, gooey deliciousness.  I am not much of a cheese eater, but I definitely enjoyed this quesadilla.  The quesadilla was stuffed with chicken and an assortment of cheeses.  It came with a small cup of salsa and sour cream, standard fare.  On a scale of 1 to 10, I rate this chicken quesadilla a '9.'

I would definitely go back to the Side Door Cafe.  It is conveniently located and has a comfortable atmosphere.  Next time, I would like to try the pizza.

Sushi X, the new hot spot in the Capital Region for sushi

Tonight, I decided to try a place the Dining Out group has not gone to yet -- Sushi X, on 710 New Loudon Road in Latham.  Sushi X is located right next to the 76 Diner in Latham. 

The inside of Sushi X is unlike any restaurant I know of in the Capital Region.  As it is billed, Sushi X is more like a lounge than a restaurant.  The inside is brightly lit, with fluorescent lights and chandeliers everywhere.  Asian-themed wallpaper is on the walls and lanterns are hanging from the ceiling.  There is a huge sushi chef kitchen with four sushi chefs busily preparing meals.  The place has a very sophisticated air to it. 

As I sat down, a waitress dressed all in black handed me two slips of paper and a pencil.  She asked me to write down my order. 

As I looked the menu over, I saw a notice on my table.  It said that if I order something and I am unable to finish it, I have to pay for it a la carte.  I thought that was a little ridiculous.  On this first round, I made sure to order only what I could eat.  I checked off miso soup, seaweed Salad, a piece of Salmon Sashimi, a Salmon Skin hand roll and a shrimp tempura special roll. 

The food that I ate was pretty good, though not spectacular.  The miso soup was excellent.  It was flavorful and not too salty.  The seaweed salad was good, though the portion was not huge.  Now, for the sushi.  Unlike Sake Cafe, the sushi rolls had a lot of rice.  Clearly, Sushi X is looking to fill its customers up quickly.  The salmon skin hand roll and shrimp tempura rolls were both acceptable.  The funniest part of the first round of food was the salmon sashimi.  On my plate was a piece of salmon smaller than my thumb.  Sushi X is kind of stingy on the fish. 

As I finished my plate, I was surprised to see the waitress coming around to give me another sheet of paper.  Sushi X is pretty good about coming around to clear plates and see if you want more food.   They do not mind giving you your money's worth.  This is good, because I was determined to leave Sushi X full.  The rice was beginning to bloat me however.  On my second round, I once again had the seaweed salad.  This time I tried a crazy girl roll (crunchy spicy salmon and avocado inside topped with pepper tuna and honey wasabi sauce).  This was very good.  I loved the spicy tuna stuffed inside and the fish on the top was a bonus.  I also had salmon, tuna, yellowtail, shrimp and white tuna pieces, which were also good. 

Shortly after I polished that off, the waitress came by and asked if I wanted more food.  The place was packed by this time.  The crowd mostly consisted of young adults in their 20's and 30's.  It was generally a hip crowd.  I was determined to continue to eat, though I was feeling quite full.  I decided to stick to the hot foods on this go-around.  I had the crab wonton and the beef rib.  The beef rib was delicious!  It was 3/4 pound of beef with the bone on barbecued in teriyaki sauce.  I ate every scrap of it.  I also had a house salad which I was a little disappointed with.  It was drowned in ginger dressing, and consisted of nothing more than lettuce and dressing. 

On the weekend, Sushi X charges $21.95 plus tax.  They add a 18% gratuity, so the whole thing costs almost $28.00.  I suppose if you count everything I ate, I did fairly well.  After all, two special rolls, soup, salad and seaweed salad would come out to about $22.00 a la carte, and I ate much more than that.  If you are hungry for Japanese food, Sushi X is the place to go.

Martel's for a quick, no-nonsense meal

I went to Martel's tonight with the Dining Out Group.  Martel's is located at the Capital Hills Golf Course on 65 O'Neil Road in Albany.  Though the golf course is closed for the winter, Martel's is open on a Winter Schedule, which means it is closed on Mondays but open every other day of the week.  Martel's offers a decent meal at a very reasonable price.

The front doors at Martel's lead into a nice, cozy bar area.  Several beers are available on tap.  There are bar stools to sit on and two big screen TV's for your viewing pleasure.  The dining area is located further inside.  The restaurant feels a little bit like a diner, with simple wood tables and chairs.  The tables are lined with paper tablecloths, which makes the restaurant feel a little downmarket.  Crayons are put on the tables so kids (and kids at heart) can draw on the paper.  The dining area boasts large windows which offer an excellent view of the golf course.  The centerpiece of the dining area is a large fireplace.  Overall, Martel's feels cozy and inviting inside. 

Martel's offers a wide selection of sandwiches, salads, pizza and entrees.  The menu is much more extensive than a menu at a typical snack shop, but not as extensive as one at a diner.  Our table of 10 ordered our entrees, and they came out within 20 minutes, which I thought was excellent timing. 

I ordered the chef salad ($7.50) with honey mustard dressing.  The chef salad was quite average.  The portion was about the same as what you would get at TGI Friday's.  My only complaint is that Martel's did not put enough grilled chicken on the salad.   There was perhaps 1/4 pound of grilled chicken on the salad, cut into strips.  Other than that, the salad was quite good.  Most importantly, the iceburg lettuce was fresh and crisp. 

Though I found my entree to be just average, others at the table seemed to have very good-looking entrees.  The gentleman sitting across from me had a very large roast beef sandwich with at least a half pound of rare roast beef on it.  The woman across from me ordered an eggplant parmigiana which also looked extremely tasty.  I was surprised to see such tasty Italian food coming from this non-Italian restaurant.  Her husband ordered a hot roast beef sandwich which was overflowing with meat and came with real mashed potatoes and vegetables.  That is what I should have ordered! 

Martel's is not gourmet, but the atmosphere is cozy, and the prices are very reasonable.  My meal plus tax and tip came out to be just $10.  This is as cheap as getting fast food.  Martel's offers a lot of value for your dollar.  Next time, I will get the hot roast beef sandwich. 

Go to Reel Seafood for excellent seafood

My girlfriend and I were in the mood for seafood.  There are only a few restaurants in the area where we can get seafood -- Red Lobster, Real Seafood etc.  We decided to go to Reel Seafood.  Reel Seafood is located on 195 Wolf Road, close to Professor Java's and the Wolf Road Diner.  It is very convenient for us to get to. 

When we walked in the restaurant, we were greeted by a gracious hostess.  We got to the restaurant really early, so we got a table right away.  Reel Seafood is a nicely decorated restaurant with a very comfortable feel.  The nautical theme is carried throughout the restauant.  There is a nice fish tank in the middle of the place. 

Our waitress was very accomodating.  Real Seafood mainly serves seafood and steaks, and a host of specials.  My girlfriend ordered the salmon cakes ($18.95) and I ordered the Baked Stufed Haddock ($20.50).  Dinner at the Reel Seafood Company comes with bread, and we were both very glad it did.  The bread is homemade, crusty and delicious, and it comes with fresh, whipped butter.  We easily finished the four pieces the restaurant gave us.  We could have easily eaten more bread; however, we felt an obligation to keep our New Year's Resolutions. 

In 20 minutes, our dishes came out, and they were very impressive.  I had a 2/3 pound piece of haddock with a generous portion of crabmeat spread on top.  My meal came with cole slaw, and a vegetable.  I got the red potatoes, and they were out of this world!  I wish I could make potatoes like that.  The haddock was very moist and tender and the stuffing was very tasty and not too greasy.  My girlfriend got for her meal three huge salmon cakes that weighed at least 1/4 pound each.  I was not expecting her to get such a big portion.  She told me she enjoyed the salmon cakes. 

As we left the restaurant, we both agreed this is somewhere we would like to go to again.  Of course, we could only go on special occasions.  With tax and tip, we each owed $28.00, which is a lot of money.  This is a reasonable price for seafood, but we cannot afford to go there all the time. 

Mocha Lisa's Cafe is average

I had an hour to kill before I had to go to an appointment in Clifton Park, so I stopped by Mocha Lisa's to pass the time.  Mocha Lisa's is located conveniently in Clifton Park Center, off of Route 146 in Clifton Park. 
My first impressions of the restaurant were very good.  Mocha Lisa's is an elegantly appointed, airy, modern cafe with a lot of tables and some very comfortable chairs.  There is even a large screen TV.  This is a very relaxing place to spend some time sipping coffee and having a conversation.  The dining area is ample, so you do not feel claustrophobic like you would at the nearby Starbucks. 

Mocha Lisa's has a very extensive menu for a coffee restaurant.  They boast at least twenty different teas, espresso drinks, iced drinks, frappes and smoothies.  You can get a chai, a chai latte, a chai frappe and a chai smoothie.  The options are endless.  The prices are rather steep at Mocha Lisa's.  A 20 oz latte is $4.45, which is slightly higher than what Starbucks charges.  Amazing how much a cup of coffee goes for these days. 

I ordered a medium hot chocolate ($2.90) and a turkey and bacon panini ($7.49).  Mocha Lisa's sells the Times Union, so I bought a Times Union as well.  At least I would not be bored while I passed the time. 

My hot chocolate came out quite quickly.  I must say I was very disappointed by it.  It did not taste any better than Swiss Miss.  It was mostly milk and a little bit of chocolate flavoring.  It did not have the richness of Starbucks, Professor Java's, or Uncommon Grounds hot chocolate.  I could have easily made this at home for a lot less money. 

I was also disappointed by my turkey and bacon panini.  The sandwich came out looking elegant, with a doilie underneath it.  The sandwich is supposed to come with turkey, bacon, swiss and tomato on ciabtta bread, but this sandwich only came with turkey and swiss on ciabatta.  Mocha Lisa's definitely skimped on the turkey.  The sandwich overall was quite average.  The sandwich also came with a small bag of chips, which were tasty.  However, this was hardly a bargain at $7.49. 

Mocha Lisa's has a wonderful, inviting atmosphere;  however, the food that I ate there was average.  If I ever had an hour to kill in Clifton Park again, I would eat somewhere else.  After I ate, I might sit at Mocha Lisa's and order one of the less expensive beverages. 

Jack LaLanne Power Juicer a bargain

I have had my Jack LaLanne Power Juicer for a couple of months now, and I can definitely say that it was a good purchase.  The only downside is that the juicer makes a lot of waste. 

Mostly, I make carrot juice.  Carrots have a lot of fiber and beta-carotene, which is said to ward off several cancers and heart disease.  Also, I like the taste of carrot juice.  Carrots by themselves taste OK, but carrot juice tastes great.  I especially like carrot juice with a little bit of ginger put in for flavor. 

The only thing that I don't like about my juicer is the waste.  The picture below shows that it takes at least six carrots to make one ten ounce glass of carrot juice.  Over half of the carrot is left over as waste.  More expensive juicers do a better job out of extracting juice.  However, for $90, the Jack LaLanne Power Juicer was about the limit of what I was willing to pay. 

Even though the machine wastes a lot of the vegetable or fruit, the juicer is very cost effective.  A pound of carrots cost roughly $1.00 at Hannaford.  For one dollar, you can make a 10 oz glass of juice.  The same amount of carrot juice costs at least $3 at Fresh Cafe, if not more, and the home-made carrot juice tastes exactly the same.  Bolthouse Farms also sells carrot juice, but I do not find their juice to taste too good. 

The Jack LaLanne Power Juice is sufficient for your novice juicer.  If you like juice as much as I do, it is a huge cost savings over buying fresh squeezed juice at the organic food store or Fresh Cafe.  The only thing I dislike about the juicer is how much waste it creates.  I end up throwing out the pulp the machine discards.

(Boston, MA) Victoria Seafood a Hit

I was in Boston with friends for First Night and we did quite a bit of dining out.  One of the best (and cheapest) places we went to was the Victoria Seafood Restaurant on 1029 Commonwealth Avenue.  This restaurant is located right near the Babcock St. station on the green line of the Boston T. 

The outside of the Victoria Seafood Restaurant is very unassuming.  In fact, when my girlfriend and I arrived at the restaurant, we seriously considered calling our friends and telling them we would be dining someplace else.  The restaurant is not a seafood restaurant -- it is a Chinese restaurant with a few seafood entrees.  Despite our disappointment in seeing the restaurant, we decided to give it a try. 

Once we entered the restaurant, things started to shape up. We saw many Asian diners happily munching away at huge, tasty-looking entrees. I was in the mood for seafood, so I decided to order the shrimp with cashews. In a typical restaurant, this dish comes with five shrimps laid on top of a heap of vegetables. Not so at the Victoria Seafood Restaurant.

As you can see, my shrimp with cashew nuts ($8.95) came with quite a few large shrimp.  The restaurant definitely did not skimp on the cashews either.  Most importantly, the dish was delicious.  My friend got the hot pot and she bragged that the pot was full of seafood.  My other friend ordered the sesame chicken ($8.25).  I had never seen such a large order of sesame chicken in my life!  There were at least 30 pieces of chicken and 20 pieces of broccoli in the dish.  He had tons of left overs, but unfortunately, he left them behind in the hotel refrigerator. 

If you are looking for good food at a reasonable price, you can't beat the Victoria Seafood Restaurant.  It is not gourmet food, but it is tasty and the portions are incredible.  The restaurant is also conveniently located next to a T stop.  I highly recommend this place.  Unfortunately, it is not closer to home.